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Papal Letter on 50th Anniversary of encyclical 'Haurietis Aquas'

6/16/2006 - 8:00 AM PST

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Remembrance of Encyclical on Devotion to Sacred Heart

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 16, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's letter to the superior general of the Jesuits to mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII's encyclical "Haurietis Aquas," on devotion to the Sacred Heart.

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To the Most Reverend Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.
Superior General of the Society of Jesus

Today, 50 years later, the Prophet Isaiah's words, which Pius XII placed at the beginning of the Encyclical with which he commemorated the first centenary of the extension of the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus to the entire Church, have lost none of their meaning: "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation" (Isaiah 12:3).

By encouraging devotion to the Heart of Jesus, the Encyclical "Haurietis Aquas" exhorted believers to open themselves to the mystery of God and of his love and to allow themselves to be transformed by it. After 50 years, it is still a fitting task for Christians to continue to deepen their relationship with the Heart of Jesus, in such a way as to revive their faith in the saving love of God and to welcome him ever better into their lives.

The Redeemer's pierced side is the source to which the Encyclical "Haurietis Aquas" refers us: We must draw from this source to attain true knowledge of Jesus Christ and a deeper experience of his love. Thus, we will be able to understand better what it means to know God's love in Jesus Christ, to experience him, keeping our gaze fixed on him to the point that we live entirely on the experience of his love, so that we can subsequently witness to it to others.

Indeed, to take up a saying of my venerable Predecessor John Paul II, "In the Heart of Christ, man's heart learns to know the genuine and unique meaning of his life and of his destiny, to understand the value of an authentically Christian life, to keep himself from certain perversions of the human heart, and to unite the filial love for God and the love of neighbor."

Thus: "The true reparation asked by the Heart of the Savior will come when the civilization of the Heart of Christ can be built upon the ruins heaped up by hatred and violence" (Letter to Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, superior general of the Society of Jesus for the beatification of Blessed Claude de la Colombière, Oct. 5, 1986; L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, Oct. 27, 1986, p. 7).

In the Encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," I cited the affirmation in the First Letter of St John: "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us," in order to emphasize that being Christian begins with the encounter with a Person (cf. No. 1).

Since God revealed himself most profoundly in the Incarnation of his Son in whom he made himself "visible," it is in our relationship with Christ that we can recognize who God really is (cf. "Haurietis Aquas," Nos. 29-41; "Deus Caritas Est," Nos. 12-15).

And again: since the deepest expression of God's love is found in the gift Christ made of his life for us on the Cross, the deepest expression of God's love, it is above all by looking at his suffering and his death that we can see God's infinite love for us more and more clearly: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

Moreover, not only does this mystery of God's love for us constitute the content of the worship of and devotion to the Heart of Jesus, but in the same way it is likewise the content of all true spirituality and Christian devotion. It is consequently important to stress that the basis of the devotion is as old as Christianity itself.

Indeed, it is only possible to be Christian by fixing our gaze on the Cross of our Redeemer, "on him whom they have pierced" (John 19:37; cf. Zechariah 12:10).

The Encyclical "Haurietis Aquas" rightly recalls that for countless souls the wound in Christ's side and the marks left by the nails have been "the chief sign and symbol of that love" that ever more incisively shaped their life from within (cf. No. 52).

Recognizing God's love in the Crucified One became an inner experience that prompted them to confess, together with Thomas: "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28), and enabled them to acquire a deeper faith by welcoming God's love unreservedly (cf. "Haurietis Aquas," No. 49).

The deepest meaning of this devotion to God's love is revealed solely through a more attentive consideration of its contribution not only to the knowledge, but also and especially to the personal experience of this love in trusting dedication to its service (cf. ibid., No. 62).

It is obvious that experience and knowledge cannot be separated: The one refers to the other. Moreover, it is essential to emphasize that true ...

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